General Motors has tried three times to sell cars with the engine behind the driver.
All are viewed as failures.
It's a steep engineering challenge to place the engine in the rear of a vehicle. First, there are few off-the-shelf parts from other vehicles that can be repurposed. So the engineering bill is big.
GM's first production rear-engined car, the 1960-69 Chevrolet Corvair, had a flat-six air-cooled engine that shared no major parts with any other GM engine. The transmission was a two-speed automatic in a unique case. The manual transmission was also specifically made for the car. The suspension was also unique to the Corvair.
Although Chevrolet sold more than a million Corvairs in a variety of body styles, the car's early handling problems, in which some people were killed, including comedian Ernie Kovacs, earned the car a bad reputation that it never recovered from. It also launched the career of a consumer- and safety-minded lawyer named Ralph Nader.
GM has tinkered with various engineering studies of midengine Corvettes over the years, but no production car with the engine behind the driver came from a GM division again until Pontiac launched the ill-fated Fiero in 1983. The low-slung, two-seater got off to a roaring start, with sales of more than 130,000 in its first year.
Then the problems started piling up. The biggest: Engine fires that drove consumers away. Some cars had defective connecting rods. And GM engineers had to shrink the car's oil pan to fit it in the tight space behind the seats. When the oil ran low, the engine broke a rod that punched through the side of the block, sending oil onto the hot exhaust manifold, igniting a fire that melted the car's composite body.
After sales stalled, GM killed the Fiero in 1988 — right after a major redesign that corrected many of the car's weak points in the suspension system.